“I wouldn’t change Kieran Tierney for anyone. You see his attitude, it’s always first class and he’ll only get better. He can play at the highest level if he continues to develop.” – Ronny Deila.
“He’d tackle his granny and he’d go into any situation and thrive just because of his attitude. He’s a born winner, a born leader and he’s a great young lad.” – Scott Brown.
The gushing praise for Kieran Tierney this season has not just come from Celtic fans but, as evidenced above, from his former manager and captain, too. If you’re not familiar with him, it’s time to join the bandwagon. As an uncompromising, hard as nails and determined full-back he’s lit up the left wing of his boyhood heroes this season.
Since his debut at the age of just 17 away to Dundee, he hasn’t looked back, despite suffering a broken foot and being up against an established international star in his position. In just 389 days he notched up another 34 appearances for the club, all of them starts. For Celtic fans it feels like he’s already been playing for years. Unafraid to surge forward and eager to fly into precise tackles, he’s everything they want in a footballer.
He was perhaps always destined to be a star. Before he’d made the first team he was already making a name for himself, famously scoring from the edge of his own area for Celtic’s Development Side in 2014. The video was uploaded to YouTube and, as these things do, went around the world.
Before that even he was catching the eye. Celtic icon Shunsuke Nakamura once gave the young player his boots after a training session in 2006, when Tierney was just eight years old, because he had already stood out at being best in possession. He still has them in a glass case in his home.
Later a Japanese camera crew came to Celtic Park to produce a film on the Japanese star and again the young starlet was singled out. He spoke on camera about his admiration for the former Celtic midfielder and was filmed at his home practicing skills made famous by the Japanese superstar.
It’s brilliant footage showing not only that the club has always been a massive part of his life but that he has always had the potential to make it as a pro footballer.
This season that potential has had the chance to burst into life. Swashbuckling, all-action displays regardless of how the rest of the team is performing has meant he’s firmly become a fans favourite. He’s been immune to the criticism given to his teammates at times. His passion for Celtic and desire to win is clear to see every time he steps across the white line. In the minds of supporters he could be any one of them.
It’s a breakthrough and ability noted by his opposition. Earlier this month he was voted as the Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year by his fellow professionals. A sign that all the bluster isn’t unwarranted hype from the Celtic camp.
The Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has also recognised his talent. Tierney won his first cap for Scotland against Denmark in March before ever appearing for the U-21 side. Impressing both pundits and fans, Tierney put in a excellent debut performance, even saving a certain Danish equaliser with a typically accurate challenge. The faith from Strachan to give national responsibility to him at such a young age is a testament to his character.
Is he the next great Celtic player? That of course remains to be seen but his first year as a senior footballer could not have gone better. There are already people predicting he’s a future captain, there are already comparisons to Celtic legend Danny McGrain. Predictions that at face value seem too soon and too fast. But who would bet against it?
The Bhoys haven’t produced a home grown, first class, top tier talent in a generation. If anyone has a chance of doing that it’s Kieran Tierney. We’ll be watching closely.